Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
Now that the A's are set at all nine positions, what would be the best way to arrange the batting order?
Gather 'round, Athletic Nation! I have an important announcement: Rosterbation season has officially begun! This is one of the most exciting times of the year to be a fan. Inside your own mind, the possibilities are endless, and they all culminate in World Series titles. Best-case scenarios abound, and Dan Johnson and Rich Harden always blossom into superstars. Strangely, Bobby Crosby still always sucks in such scenarios, a phenomenon known as the Crosbum Paradox.
Oakland's 2013 rosterbation season has opened because they appear to be set at all nine positions. With the acquisition of John Jaso, each position has either a set starter (RF, LF, 3B, SS), a set platoon or rotation (C, 1B, CF, DH), or a positional battle overflowing with qualified internal candidates (2B). It is highly unlikely that any more position players will enter the mix, so it's probably safe to start talking about batting orders!
For the sake of simplicity, I am just going to make two separate lineups, one to face lefties and one to face righties. I don't expect everything to be this cut and dried in real life, but there's no way to know exactly how BoMel will divvy up the playing time so we're just going to go off of strict platoons today. Second base will be filled by a place-holder, because whoever wins that battle will probably be the outright starter (rather than a platoon), and the lineup placement will be the same regardless of who wins the job. We'll name the place-holder "Greeksmore" (Green + Weeks + Sizemore). Here are the two groups, arranged by defensive position with the DH at the end:
|Vs RHP||Vs LHP|
Note that I have removed Seth Smith from the starting lineup completely. Even with his solid numbers against right-handers, I just can't justify playing him over Chris Carter or Brandon Moss in any situation. If one of those two sluggers falls off and fails to duplicate his 2012 success, then it's nice to know that Smith is there on the bench, ready to step in. He's also a fantastic pinch-hitting option. Therefore, my first-base platoon is Moss/Carter, and my DH platoon is Carter/Coco, meaning that Carter effectively plays every day and Coco gets some time off of defense to keep his legs fresh.
Now, here's the twist. Rather than just subjectively picking my batting orders, I am going to arrange them according to The Book. Written by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin, The Book goes in-depth on many items of strategy, including optimal batting orders. A few years ago, Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Boxscore wrote up a nice summary of The Book's lineup tips; I will strictly follow its guidelines here. These lineups will literally be by The Book. (h/t to Furyan and sc00by for reminding me of Kalkman's article in the comments section the other day)
Let's begin with a few excerpts from Kalkland:
(For lead-off hitters) "The book says OBP is king...The lead-off hitter is one of the best three hitters on the team, the guy without homerun power."
"The #2 hitter should be better than the #3 guy, and one of the best 3 hitters overall...he should be a high-OBP player."
"...because he comes to bat so often with two outs and no runners on base, the #3 hitter...is a spot to fill after more important spots are taken care of."
"The cleanup hitter is the best hitter on the team with power."
"After positions #1, #2, and #4 are filled, put your next best hitter (#5), unless he lives and dies with the long ball."
"...the rest of the lineup should be written in based on decreasing talent...a base-stealing threat who doesn't deserve a spot higher in the lineup is optimized in the #6 hole, followed by the singles hitters."
"Here's how the lineup spots rank in importance of avoiding outs: #1, #4, #2, #5, #3, #6, #7, #8, #9"
That is the quick run-down of how to construct your lineup by The Book. Let's see what Oakland's order would look like based on these rules.
We must begin by identifying our top three hitters, with an emphasis on OBP. I'm going with Cespedes, Carter, and Jaso (you might argue that Moss belongs above Carter, but just bear with me here). With his .394 OBP last season, Jaso is the obvious choice to lead off. The Book says that the cleanup hitter is the best hitter with power, and that is pretty obviously Cespedes. Carter fits the criteria for #2.
Next, we fill the #5 spot. Our next best hitter, provided he doesn't live and die with the long ball? I'd say that's Brandon Moss. He's got power, but he also hit .291; he did more than just hit dingers in 2012. That average is likely to come down a bit, but until it does, he's my #5 guy.
That brings us to #3. Let's see, this spot is going to come up a lot with the bases empty and 2 outs, and Kalkman recommends a high-homer guy here even more than the #5 spot...sounds like a perfect place for Josh Reddick! He loves to hit solo homers, and last year some asshole told him that if he drove in any runners from scoring position then all pro wrestling shows would be cancelled forever. After I complained about his hitting 3rd all last season, this actually seems like the perfect spot for Shreddick.
The #6 spot is just begging for Coco. His OBP is too low to hit higher than this, he's the base-stealer that Kalkland suggests for this spot, and, in both 2012 and his career overall, he's been at his best both in "high leverage" situations and with RISP. He's the perfect guy to mop up behind the heart of the order, and the perfect guy to get on base ahead of the bottom-third. After that, I'm going Donaldson, Greeksmore, and Hiro for #7-8-9.
Against a left-hander, Oakland loses Jaso from the top of its lineup. However, Coco still doesn't have the OBP to fill that role, and besides, he's absolutely perfect at #6. Instead, we're going with Chris Young. That might surprise you, because Young isn't thought of as a high-OBP guy either; his career mark is .318. Remember, though, that this is BoMelBall. Young isn't playing against the overall league; in this scenario, he's only playing against the lefties, and his career OBP vs LHP is .371. That's a full 100 points higher than his batting average vs LHP, with an excellent BB:K ratio. Even in his weak 2012, he still posted a .343 OBP vs LHP compared to his .311 overall. Against lefties, Young IS a high-OBP guy. Although his home run power is being wasted here, he's still the best option, and his speed plays well in this spot. Besides, a leadoff homer now and then never killed anyone (including Justin Verlander in the ALDS, unfortunately).
Carter and Cespedes retain their #2 and #4 spots, respectively. I still like Reddick at #3 by these rules, which means that Josh Donaldson moves up to #5, ahead of Coco. Greeksmore, Norris, and Hiro fill out the rest of the lineup, in that order.
Here is how the two lineups look:
|Vs RHP||Vs LHP|
Each lineup effectively mixes L/R/L where necessary, as well, which is also recommended in The Book. Earlier, I asked you to bear with me regarding Carter vs Moss. The reason is that, if I chose Moss over Carter for the #2 spot vs RHP, the lineup would go L/L/L/R/R.
Both lineups have very deep benches, with Smith and either Young or Moss available to pinch-hit. I'm actually a little bit surprised by how happy I am with these lineups. There's even insurance in the instances of slumps or injuries. The only thing that I'm not thrilled about is Donaldson hitting 5th against lefties, but even that might not turn out terribly.
So, there you have it. That is what Oakland's order would look like if constructed strictly by The Book. What do you think about those lineups? Do you like them as is? Would you shuffle a couple of things, or completely blow them up and start over? Are you convinced that Coco should or shouldn't hit leadoff, or that Reddick needs to be lower in the order? How about Coco 3rd, and Reddick 6th? Let's get crazy in the comments, but remember: Always practice safe rosterbation.
And, in the words of Sky Kalkman:
"Stop talking like the lineup is a make-or-break decision."